Dialogue 3: Is the Trinity doctrine from paganism?

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bullets CHRISTIAN CONVERSATIONS WITH JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES—Biblical Answers To Questions Jehovah’s Witnesses Ask

(WDGR Lesson 11: “Beliefs and Customs That Displease God”)

Examining the Watchtower brochure “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”, Karen asks Cindy why the Watchtower endeavors to substantiate its claims about the Trinity by quoting authors that teach that the Bible is the source of paganism in Christianity.

CINDY: Hello, Karen. What are you reading?

KAREN: Oh, Hi, Cindy. I was just reading the Watchtower brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity?. In this brochure, the Society quotes a number of sources that say that the doctrine of the Trinity is of pagan origin.

CINDY: That’s right, Karen. Just as we’ll be studying today in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us? “Not all beliefs and customs are bad. But God does not approve of them if they come from false religion or are against Bible teachings.” 1.

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KAREN: Cindy, until I read this brochure on the Trinity, I never thought of it being pagan. Where did the Society get this information? For example on page 11 of Should You Believe in the Trinity?, they say: “Historian Will Durant observed: ‘Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.… From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity.’” Who is Will Durant? Are they quoting a book he wrote? If, so, why doesn’t the Watchtower give the name of the book and a page number so we can read the quote in context?

CINDY: I don’t know. Let me look and see if they have an appendix or something in this brochure that tells… humm… I don’t see anything at all.

KAREN: Cindy, I looked through this whole brochure and not only does the Society fail to reference where they got this quote from Durant, but they do not give page numbers for any of the sources they quote. I wonder why?

CINDY: Karen, I don’t know…but why is this important to you? The Society is very careful about their research. They wouldn’t put something in their literature if it wasn’t true.

KAREN: Cindy, as you know, the Bible says to “make sure of all things.”2. What’s involved in making sure of all things? Am I supposed to believe everything I read without checking it out?

CINDY: Well, no.

KAREN: Cindy, because I wanted to obey Jehovah God by making “sure of all things,” I wrote the Society about this and they sent me a reference list for their brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity?. Looking at their list, I was able to find that this quote from Will Durant came from his book The Story of Civilization: Part III, Caesar and Christ. In their brochure, the Society quoted the statement he made on page 595 in which he said “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it,” but I think you’d be shocked at what he said just before he made that statement. Would you read it for me?

CINDY: O.K. “It seems incredible that the Apocalypse and the Fourth Gospel should have come from the same hand. The Apocalypse is Jewish poetry, the Fourth Gospel is Greek philosophy.”3. What? Will Durant says that the gospel of John is “Greek philosophy”?

KAREN: That’s right, Cindy. Keep reading.

CINDY: “Just as Philo, learned in Greek speculation, had felt a need to rephrase Judaism in forms acceptable to the logic-loving Greeks, so John…sought to give a Greek philosophical tinge to the mystic Jewish doctrine that the Wisdom of God was a living being, and to the Christian doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. Consciously or not, he continued Paul’s work of detaching Christianity from Judaism.”

KAREN: Cindy, is Durant saying that the Biblical writers John and Paul incorporated Greek philosophy in their writings of the New Testament?

CINDY: Well, that’s what it looks like. “…so John.…continued Paul’s work of detaching Christianity from Judaism.”4. 

KAREN: Can you see why the Society doesn’t want you to know what kind of historian Will Durant is? After all, isn’t Durant saying that the Bible is from paganism and that Christianity became pagan because the Biblical writings are pagan?

CINDY: Well, I guess that’s what he’s saying. But, the Watchtower references other sources. You’re not going to throw out the Society’s argument simply because one historian they quote is wrong, are you?

KAREN: That’s a good point. Cindy, would you read the next person they quote in this brochure?

CINDY: O.K. “And in the book Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz notes: “The trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians…Three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.”5.

KAREN: So, the Society is quoting Siegfried Morenz as saying that the Trinity doctrine is derived from Egyptian false religion, but would you read some of his other statements found on pages 251-254 of his book Egyptian Religion?

CINDY: Sure. “…the doctrine of creation through the word …was one of the principal elements in the Egyptian cosmogony.…Less important, but more readily comprehensible, is the influence of the Egyptian court chronicle upon the literary form of the Israelites’ chronicle account of David and Solomon.…Isaiah’s famous list of appellations for the Prince of Peace.…is probably derived from the fivefold titulary of the Egyptian king.…Other passages can, however, be claimed as Egyptian in inspiration: for instance, the Egyptian…lists of knowledge, which were the basis of the proverbs which King Solomon spoke.”6. Oh, my! He’s making nearly everything in the Bible pagan.

KAREN: That’s right, Cindy. And listen to what he says about the New Testament: “…religious forms of the land of the Nile also had an effect upon the New Testament and so upon early Christianity.…a concept that figures in the New Testament has been taken to be ultimately of Egyptian origin, Jesus’s parable of Dives and Lazarus.…the association between ship and tongue in the Epistle of St James, which was originally Egyptian. Romans: the proverbial ‘coals of fire’ which were to be heaped upon one’s enemy – derived from a Late Egyptian penitential rite.…the acclamation… ‘God is One’…is derived from one employed in the service of Sarapis.…and this in turn comes from the early Egyptian theologians’ form ‘One is Amon.’ ”7.  Cindy, do you believe that the Biblical teaching that God is one is from the Egyptian theologian’s view that their god Amon is one?

CINDY: Absolutely, not, Karen!

KAREN: Then why do you believe his statements that the doctrine of the Trinity is from paganism? After all, by denying his view that the concept that “God is one” is from Egyptian religion, you are pulling the foundation out from under his argument regarding the Trinity. Either you accept his teaching that these Biblical concepts are from paganism and thus believe that the Bible is the source of paganism in Christianity, or you deny his arguments altogether. Which is it going to be Cindy?

CINDY: I don’t know Karen.

KAREN: Since the Watchtower Society is quoting these sources in support of their arguments, what does this say about their doctrine and literature? When they have to go to books that teach that the Bible is the source of paganism in order to prove their points, how can we trust any of their literature regarding alleged paganism in Christianity?

CINDY: I don’t know, Karen, but how can the Trinity be from the Bible? Didn’t Jesus say “…the Father is greater than I am”?8.

KAREN: Yes, He did. Can we talk about that next week?

CINDY: Sure, Karen, I’ll be here.

COMMENTS:

Friends, have you ever seen a counterfeit $3.00 bill? Obviously, since no U.S. $3.00 bill exists, one will search in vain to find a counterfeit $3.00 bill, for it would be easily recognized. Because the purpose of the counterfeit is to deceive people into substituting the counterfeit for the genuine, counterfeit money is designed to resemble only authentic bills. This same principle applies to the spiritual realm. Simply because one can find numerous similarities between Biblical doctrines and pagan religions does not prove that such doctrines are derived from paganism. Rather, on the contrary, such resemblance actually proves the deceitful tactics of Satan in counterfeiting God’s truth.

 

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1. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 22:1
2. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, New World Translation
3. The Story of Civilization: Part III, Caesar and Christ, 1944, p. 594
4. The Story of Civilization: Part III, Caesar and Christ, p. 594-595
5. Should You Believe in the Trinity, 1989, p. 11
6. Egyptian Religion, 1973, pp. 251-252
7. Egyptian Religion, 1973, pp. 253-254
8. John 14:28, New World Translation

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